The real Croatia is waiting away from the coast. How is Croatia not genuine on the coast? The Dalmatian Adriatic coast, with its Venetian architecture, eventually starts to feel more like Italy. If, however, you’re looking that Balkan feeling, you can find it in the hinterland at the farmers’ market in Zadvarje. 10 kilometres from the Adriatic coast, on a karst plateau between Omiš and Makarska, lies the town of Zadvarje. On Tuesdays, a market is held in the village that is definitely not geared toward tourists, where overzealous vendors call out, “Hello, my friend, good price, cheap cheap.” The people from the Makarska Riviera and the hinterland meet, negotiate by gesticulating wildly, and exchange the latest gossip. There aren’t any fake brand name sweaters, but plenty of everyday goods for the average local. Doesn’t sound exciting? On the contrary, my social media colleague Dirk and I found the market in Zadvarje lovable, quirky, and amazing at times.
Zadvarje – handmade, homemade, canned
Along the main road and in small nooks, the merchants of Zadvarje had set up their stands. Or something that was supposed to represent a stand – one woman had covered her car with mandarin oranges. It was practical and looked great!
There were fruits and vegetables coming out of the region, like fresh watermelons, citrus fruits, plums, grapes, pointed peppers, and more during our visit in September. Usually in quantities so huge that one wonders how big the average family actually is. Some of the items at the farmers’ market in Zadvarje are preserved for the winter in the form of jams, pickled vegetables, ajvar (a required accompaniment to ćevapčići), honey, and dried herbs. One man even sold homemade herbal tinctures that could help, for example, against hair loss, bronchitis, or a lack of virility.
Even more fascinating than the organic viagra: we found a device that looked home-built and did nothing but shred cabbage. You put raw cabbage in the top and shredded cabbage comes out below. You could shred it yourself for the winter, or buy ready-made sauerkraut in buckets. “You want to take a bucket? Sauerkraut is healthy.” The dealer said to me as I photographed this fascinating sight. I just imagined myself at the Split Airport, taking a bucket of sauerkraut through security… “Uh, no, thank you. Next time, love.”
In the “non-food sector”, a stall stood out with second-hand clothes that had already passed their fashionable apex, but might be considered retro in Berlin at some point and lavishly resold to hipsters. There were some souvenirs – sometimes more or less portable: beautiful, handmade wooden jugs and barrels, wooden stools, and hand-embroidered folklore bags. There were also everyday things at the farmers’ market in Zadvarje, like flashlights, batteries, kitchen knives, screws, pizza paddles, and anything else a good household might need on a budget.
Transporting pigs, Balkan-style
The curious climax for urbanites like me and Dirk was a small cattle market, which was connected to the back part of the market in Zadvarje. It smelled, of course, of animals thanks to the cows, pigs, and sheep. Men in tracksuits bartered a cattle price while a cute donkey struck poses and stole our photographer’s attention. A man bought one of the pigs, which were put up for sale on the loading deck of a truck. Dear animal rights activists, please skip this next bit! The man put the pig in a burlap sack and immediately tossed it into the open boot of his car. The bag squealed and kicked and we looked on, dumbfounded, as a second pig-bag was tossed in and the two sacks thrashed around in the boot. Poor pigs. We consoled ourselves with the thought that the pigs probably wouldn’t land in a huge pig mill, but would have a beautiful life on a small Dalmatian farm.
Just behind the cattle market, there’s a viewpoint that calls for a short stop if there’s no market running in Zadvarje. From here, you can look out over a rugged plateau and a gorge and admire the Gubavica Waterfall in the distance. The river Cetina falls 40 metres here. Further downstream, you can join a thrilling rafting trip, which we also tried after our visit to the market.
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The market at Zadvarje takes place on Tuesdays, and it’s definitely worth a visit on your way to do a rafting tour or on a detour from Omiš. In total, it’s about 30 kilometres from the Hotel TUI BLUE Jadran in Tučepi.